The pandemic forced many nonprofits to adapt to remote work and navigate mission delivery for clients under quarantine. Social services organizations also faced increased demand for their programs and services. Technology enabled many of these nonprofits to scale quickly while maintaining or improving stakeholder connections, giving them a level of resiliency and leaving nonprofits feeling cautiously optimistic about the future. Although the pandemic undermined both the operating and fundraising structures of the nonprofit world, many nonprofit professionals saw the disruption as an opportunity for renewal and adaptation leading to increased flexibility and resiliency in the post pandemic era.
- Forward thinking nonprofit staff members viewed the COVID-19 disruption as an opportunity to build a knowledge base around new donors. Being able to understand what drives Generation X (1965-1980) and Generation Y (1981-1996) is creating a useable pipeline to these younger generations of donors.
- Fundraising pros are now recognizing the irreplaceable value of time spent connecting with donors. The challenge of contacting closed off donors during the pandemic snapped them out of a "our fundraising efforts are good enough" lethargy into considering 2024 as an opportunity to be more inventive, intentional, and influential developing modern methods of donor development.
- During the pandemic, nonprofit organizations had to pivot to online and virtual fundraising just to stay afloat. This became the new normal. It is now paramount for nonprofit organizations to build a technology infrastructure to meet new donors where they are. Are they tech-savvy and enjoy connecting via Zoom, or are they over it? Are they old-school and enjoy phone conversations? They realize that donors grew weary of the remote cyber contact required by pandemic isolation.
- By gaining a holistic picture of participant needs through modern technology and partnering with organizations to ensure all needs are met, after the pandemic subsided nonprofits began building a connected network that magnifies the impact they are making in their communities.
In the year ahead, nonprofits anticipate challenges related to staffing and the state of the economy, technology, finances, and fundraising.
- 2023 is the first-year total grants from DAFs exceeded $50 billion, a new record high. Contributions to DAF accounts totaled $85.53 billion in 2022, a 9% increase from $78.44 billion in 2021. Contributions to DAFs are irrevocable and destined for qualified charities so grants eventually equal total contributions but it often takes a couple of years to award them.
- This is reflected in how nonprofits are shifting their priorities over the coming year with 48% placing a greater emphasis on fundraising, 46% on retaining staff, and 44% on employee wellbeing.
- Nonprofits report weaker relationships with volunteers and donors — two stakeholder groups that are critical to mission delivery and organizational continuity.
- Nonprofit staff in operations and HR both say managing remote employees and volunteers has become their top issue.
- Since the pandemic, the lowest-ranking stakeholder relationship is with the media. This is understandable — especially given that nonprofits may not always have media relations capabilities. However, prioritizing this group of stakeholders could help nonprofits address the challenges of raising awareness for their organizations.
- The biggest resiliency issue facing the technology function is combining CRM data and non-CRM data. Having the right technologies in place could help many nonprofits enhance the resilience of their mission operations.
- Educating donors rather than constant begging is an important nonprofit initiative for 2024. The more donors know about your organization the more committed they will be to your mission. A good first step in this resilience initiative is to publish your organization's annual report for everyone to see.
- Using AI for fundraising is the most dramatic trend in nonprofit funding for 2024. The efficiency of this powerful tool cannot be denied but its effectiveness will depend on how authentic your messages feel to your donors. Remember, AI generated fundraising messages require extensive editing to remain both authentic and effective.
COVID-19 disrupted the tone and temper of both nonprofit operations and fundraising. Rather than reeling from the disruption, nonprofit staff took it as a wake-up call to conduct a reassessment and renewal of both their operations and donor engagement efforts in 2024.